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“Check your contract with a lawyer!” – Oliver Heinz, music lawyer

Linus Lassus
Oliver Heinz from Heinz & v. Rothkirch

Oliver Heinz from Heinz & v. Rothkirch

Music and entertainment law is often among the first things mentioned in discussions about entering the UK and US music markets. More seldom the topic is brought up in the context of the German music industry – with an exception for Gema and the German copyright legislation.  Obviously, there are still laws to be followed and contracts to look after south of the border as well as people who have made it their task to become experts in the field. MXD talked to one of them.

Hi Oliver! Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

My name is Oliver Heinz. I am a Germany-based specialist lawyer for media and copyright law and partner in Heinz & v. Rothkirch. We predominantly advise clients in the areas of intellectual property and related fields of law with a particular focus on copyright and media law, especially music and entertainment law, industrial property rights, press and privacy law, event legislation and internet law. Our clients range from small start-ups to global enterprises and cover bands to superstars. In addition to being a lawyer, I am working as an artists manager with my agency Bassstadt.

How important is legal matters in Germany, compared to e.g. the UK and the US music markets?

I’d say there is no difference in importance really. Those countries are among the strongest music markets in the world and if you want to be “part of the game”, you need to know about business matters as well as your legal matters. As in other industries there are always people who have specialized in the different areas of the concrete business: promoters, managers, labels, publishers and booking agents. Each of them is an expert in his/her area of practice, but it still applies for all of them that it’s good to at least have an overview and basic knowledge of the legal issues as well.

Are there many legal players like you in Germany?

There are a few of course. But compared to the amount of lawyers working in the field of employment or family law for example, it is a negligible group of people.

What are artists you work with usually struggling with in terms of legal issues?

Since many musicians mostly care about the artistic side and not so much the business side of their career, there is quite often a lack of a general understanding of copyright law. That leads to a lot of questions when it comes to professionalizing and monetarizing their own business.

There are lots of insecurities when it comes to the customary key data (especially fees, royalties, periods etc.) of contracts, the negotiating and terminating of contracts… And there are several types of contracts in this trade.

Furthermore there a lot of questions regarding the creation and protection of copyrights and the administration of copyrights through collecting societies.

What are the most frequent legal issues for foreign bands coming to Germany? Gema, or…?

For foreign Bands the Gema isn’t really an issue since the people who exploit the music (such as labels, promoters, radio stations etc.) are the ones who pay.  Gema has several agreements with foreign collecting societies, like Koda in Denmark, so the money to be collected by Gema will find its way (though delayed) to the foreign composer.

Foreign bands should always check if there are any tax issues that might pop up – like VAT or other possible applicable tax payments.
When ever contracts are offered I of course highly recommend to ask a specialist lawyer!

You said you’re also a manager. What benefits do you have from knowing legal matters in that work?

It helps a lot!